Friday, September 6, 2013

All is Not What it Seems

This is the story of how I lie to myself.

First, a little background. For the last month, I have set a goal to get to the studio early enough for a Mysore practice, a self-led sequence that requires both physical and mental stamina. Because I teach in the mornings at locations all over the Bay Area, I need to be there by 6:00 am in order to meet this goal.

Lorien in a pose called
Marichyasana C
This particular morning, I woke up before the sun, dressed, drank a glass of water, gathered my belongings for the day ahead (I planned to be out of the house until evening, so there were several things to gather) and left the house. It was especially important for me to be on time this specific day, because I needed to be done with enough time to shower, eat and get to Sunnyvale in heavy traffic by 8:30 am.

I pulled into the studio's parking lot at 6:30 am, grumpy that I couldn't get myself out sooner on an already limited practice day. As I was collecting my items from my car, I noticed that my phone wasn't among them. I remembered to bring my charger, but no phone. I was frustrated with myself, because I didn't have time during the day to run home to get it, and I had planned to do several things using my phone. With time slipping away, I silently cursed my forgetfulness and walked into the studio.

The next hour was a struggle - the toughest one since beginning this Mysore practice. I couldn't let go of my inner critic. I kept thinking of all the things I wasn't going to be able to do because I forgot my phone: emails I was too tired to send the night before, wishing my high school friend a happy birthday, texting my noon appointment to be sure we met in the right place, texting my daughter to be sure she knew I was picking her up, playing music for my new class, locating my new class, etc...

Stop me if any of this internal dialogue sounds familiar.

There are many poses to remember in the Mysore sequence, and I'm a newbie who's trying to keep my chronic pain at bay, so I practice only half of the sequence. Even still, I couldn't remember the order. My mind was elsewhere. I went through the motions and only occasionally grounded my awareness inside my body. When I noticed I had drifted, I berated myself even more, and the negative thoughts poured out of the dark corners of my mind like water from a leaky boat on rough surf.
The Ship by Salvador Dali

Crash! went a wave, and I remembered how I had hurt myself doing this practice before.

Slosh! went the water, and I thought that maybe this practice isn't meant for me.

Down the other side of the surf and up the next crest I went, feeling worse with each pose. It reminded me of the time I was aboard a boat in the Mediterranean, heaving over the side and we rose and fell, caught in a storm that had almost everyone aboard suffering with seasickness.

I didn't want help from the teacher or her assistant. I wanted to wallow in my inadequacies, to swim in those dark waters.

I ended my practice with enough time to get me to the next thing. Once on the road, I reflected on what had just happened. I missed feeling blissful and proud. I missed the distraction that my phone provided. As I sat in traffic, I examined my thoughts. I had recently been working with the concept that "life is made up of 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows", and noticed that I got caught up more in the sorrows than in the joys.

Well, this certainly was a morning that described that pattern of behavior. Once I realized this, I decided to embrace the joys. I listed the items that I did remember to bring with me, all of the things that I needed for the day. I reframed the day as an "old-school" day, knowing that I had once lived without the aid of a smart phone, and - gasp!- even a cell phone.

I can do this, I told myself.

As I reframed things, I noticed that traffic became less annoying. I focused on the interesting bird (was it a Chicken Hawk or a Turkey Vulture?) that sat above me on a wire, watching the commuters below with intense interest. I remained tuned in to my surroundings as I taught my morning class, ran my first errand and made my way to my next meeting. Somehow I found my way, all without the technology that I thought I needed.

I was just parking my car when my phone rang. From my purse.

What I thought I needed to make it though my day was with me all along.

I had lied to myself in the morning, and continued the lies as I practiced. If I had continued to believe those lies, I might not have made it through my day, whether or not I found my phone. Once I realized all of this, I heard my Mysore teacher's voice telling us one of her wise phrases:

"All is not what it seems."

The next time you tune in to your thoughts, see if you notice any of these patterns, and ask yourself what is true about your thoughts. As the lies drop away, remind yourself that things are not always as they initially appear.


  • Please see my schedule page for updates; 3 NEW classes for cancer survivors, and new locations!
  • Sunday, September 15: Basics of Pranayama and Chanting; this 1-day workshop is at Mind-Body Zone in Fremont; see the Events page for more information.
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  • Remember, if you can't make it to class, you can always pop in my DVD, Healing Yoga for Wellness, available online at and, and in stores at Breathe Los Gatos, Pacific Healing Arts, Cancer CAREpoint resource center, East West Bookshop and Kaiser Mind-Body-Wellness center.